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Backpacking is the next level of camping, as you can literally set up shop anywhere your two little feet will lead you. When you all wake up as the only group at a high alpine lake with the sun glistening off the water and fog rolling over the peaks, you'll understand why backpackers will trek miles and miles for seclusion.
To be comfortable at your destination, you'll need a tent that's roomy and weatherproof. However, you must also consider how small the tent can compress and its weight, so you can be sure you have enough space and muscle to carry it in your backpack from start to finish. To help you make an informed decision before venturing into the backcountry, we've rounded up the best backpacking tents of 2018.
Note: For minimalists, most of these tents also include a fast-pitch option that allows you to set up just the rainfly with the footprint (leaving the tent body behind), so you can lighten up your pack.
There's a reason Big Agnes is at the top of this list. They have a solid history of making some of the lightest, highest performing three-season backpacking tents. Perfect for backcountry adventures, this two-person tent has the ideal balance of weight (under 3 pounds), interior space, convenience, and functionality.
A four-way hub pole design makes the sidewalls nearly vertical, which increases interior space and makes the tent 25% stronger than previous models. It's rare to find a tent that has two vestibules and enough space for two people to sleep comfortably at such a low weight (unless you're willing to spend your entire paycheck), but Big Agnes has found a way — and we're pretty darn stoked about it!
Winner of Outdoor Gear Lab's Editor's Choice Award for 2017, Nemo's Dagger has made a serious impression on outdoor enthusiasts. Considering the low overall weight, we're thoroughly impressed at the durable fabric and storm-resistant build. This tent holds up like a bomb shelter in thunderstorms and high winds, and it'll continue to do so for years to come.
The floorspace is a bit more narrow than many tents (50 inches wide), but it has extra room at the head and foot (90 inches long), so it's great for taller folks. When not in use, this tent compresses down to a mere 19-by-5 inches, so it takes up next to no space in your bag.
If you're ready to invest in your backcountry future and you've narrowed it down to a two-person tent, we highly recommend considering Nemo's Dagger 2P at the top of your list.
While many backpacking tents skimp on comfort to save ounces, MSR has packed a ton of living space and weatherproofing into a relatively lightweight package. MSR's Mutha Hubba, the three-person version of their beloved Hubba lineup, has ample interior room for three humans (or two humans and two dogs) to splay out, while two huge vestibules (one at either door) will house everyone's gear with ease. It weighs just 4.75 pounds, and it packs down to just 21-by-7 inches, making it one of the lighter three-person models available.
But don't let the low weight deceive you — heavy downpours don't stand a chance against the bathtub-style floor, ripstop nylon fly with DuraShield PU waterproof coating, and super strong guylines that fasten this tent securely to the earth — so you can stay dry and ready to conquer pass after alpine pass.
Sierra Designs made the Sweet Suite 2P for backpackers who want something that's lightweight, affordable, and not so trimmed down that it's unlivable. The tent body is made entirely of No-See-Um mesh, so airflow is maximized on hot, sticky nights, and stargazing is unobstructed. It's completely stormproof, too, with a bathtub-style floor and a full-coverage, silicone-treated rainfly.
With a minimum weight of just 3.75 pounds, you might expect this tent to feel cramped — but there's plenty of space for two 6-foot-plus humans to stretch out, and enough headspace to sit up tall without brushing your head on the ceiling.
Overall, it's a great ultralight option that makes it possible for campers to backpack comfortably!
The Tiger Wall is the lightest series of two door, two vestibule backpacking tents that Big Agnes makes. The UL2 is a minimalist option with a hubbed pole and tapered floor design that works well for couples who like to snuggle. But with a trail weight of just 2.25 pounds, we like it most for solo trips, when you and your furry companion want a bit of extra space.
In true ultralight fashion, materials are a bit on the delicate side, but this tent can be your long-time backpacking tent with the proper care!
If you're trying to cut ounces so you can stay light and fast on thru hikes or bike-packing trips, it doesn't get much better than this freestanding option.
Don't want to carry for anyone but yourself? This one-man tent is designed for minimalist backpackers who take solo trips or like their privacy when going with a group. Fully taped seams keep moisture away, and high-low ventilation keeps air circulating on those hot and humid days.
Sleep well, all by your lonesome, and never again feel pressured to tell your friends, "You can just squeeze into my tent," because they literally cannot.
A budget-friendly backpacking tent, this two-person option from ALPS is a great buy for value-conscious outdoorspeople. With a shape similar to pricier tents, this one boasts two doors, two vestibules, a wide and fully rectangular floor, and a robust rainfly to keep the interior bone dry.
With incredibly easy setup and weighing in at just under 5 pounds, the Chaos 2 is a solid contender in a stacked and ever-evolving lineup.
Affordable yet durable and stormproof, this two-person tent from Kelty is ideal for the occasional backpacker who doesn't want to hustle a side job just to afford the sickest gear. It's not quite ultralight, but at under 5 pounds, it's far from heavy, and it packs down small enough to leave plenty of space in your backpack to lug back some freshly caught trout after a weekend retreat at your favorite high alpine lake.
It also comes with a "Stargazing Fly" – a half-on, half-off rainfly — so you'll never miss another meteor shower again.
Marmot makes some pretty killer backpacking tents at competitive prices, which is why their Limelight two-man must be considered! At 5.2 pounds, it's on the heavier side of the scale — but that added weight brings luxury. With over 33 square feet of floor space and multiple interior pockets, there's plenty of room for two large humans to spread out with their gear well-organized. Its heavier fabrics also help this backpacking tent stand up strong in thunderstorms.
Did we mention it has an average of 4.8 stars from over 50 reviews on Backcountry.com?